Tougaw: CSU must update old facilities or pay for it later

Ryan Tougaw

Editor’s Note: All opinion section content reflects the views of the individual author only and does not represent a stance taken by The Collegian or its editorial board.

New Warner College of Natural Resources
The new addition to the Warner College of Natural Resources has classrooms, study spaces, a balcony, and adds new life to the old building just off the plaza. (Joe Oakman | Collegian)

Colorado State University is experiencing a period of extensive growth and opportunity. A host of new buildings and institutions have exemplified the influx of new students and resources that CSU is currently accruing, culminating in the brand-new stadium occupying the south end of campus. Since 2015, CSU has planned for $244 million in expansions.

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However, like all development projects, it’s important to keep investment and resources into the older portions of campus.

It is an easy pit to fall into, beginning to convert open spaces and underused areas to newer buildings like the Natural Resources building and upcoming Center for Vector-borne Infections and Disease research center in the CSU Foothills campus. However, if merely neglected in favor of focusing on newer projects, the accumulating and continual usage of CSU’s buildings will be a much bigger headache for the University down the road.

One example of this is the $20.2 Million expansion to the Michael Smith Building of Natural Resources. Natural Resources was an example of an aging building in need of a modernization.

Clark has a special place in the hearts of liberal arts students on campus and does boast some large and modern lecture halls in the A wing of the building. In contrast, the C wing, not a mere 50 feet apart, is substantially lower in quality and upkeep. Venture into the basement and main levels of A and C respectively and the gap between buildings becomes even more apparent, which further speaks to the increasing divide between some areas of campus.

It is the same scenario in areas like downtown Denver. Everyone knows and loves the 16th Street Mall in downtown Denver, but only 4 blocks in either direction will take one to parts of the city that do not receive the same funding and upkeep as some other areas receive. Even Fort Collins has some outskirts that aren’t keeping pace with the rapid suburban developments going on. 

Stagnation will only worsen with time as increasing development and ambitious projects take up more and more of the funding available from state and local governments. This will inevitably lead to lower land value, increasing repair and upkeep costs, lower accessibility and large areas that start to become unusable, ultimately leading to the only option being demolition and reconstruction, which is by no means easy or cost effective.

There is no reason that new update plans should not also include updating facilities within the buildings that already exist. 

The same thing is bound to happen to CSU as it continues to approach its target number of 35,000 students.

This is not to say CSU shouldn’t expand; it absolutely should. The new buildings, facilities and, of course, the stadium are excellent additions to a thriving and welcoming campus.

An expansion is paramount to incentivizing new students and investment to find their way into CSU, and those won’t come if the campus does not seem to be the best place for the future achievement. There is no reason that new update plans should not also include updating facilities within the buildings that already exist. For instance, classrooms in the Gifford building still use blackboards, where new rooms in Natural Resources have no less than four televisions and two projector screens.

The Aylesworth building, a dormitory recently converted into office space, is another prime example of an aging building left behind by more ambitious projects mere feet away from it. Anyone who has ventured in has noticed the cracked floors, worn paint, cramped space and sagging ceiling that has only become worse as time has gone on.

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Effective work, research, and study require equally effective facilities. It is, by far, more cost effective to turn Aylesworth, Glover and Gifford into polished workspaces than it is to start new, state of the art buildings from scratch.

If appropriate measures aren’t taken, the hassle and cost down the road to address these issues are only going to increase, causing nothing but more pressure for CSU’s campus and Administration.

Columnist Ryan Tougaw can be reached at letters@collegian.com or online on Twitter at @rjtougaw